In certain applications it is no longer just people that end users want to restrict — it is also the germs they potentially carry. Nowhere is this more important than in the healthcare sector. But other applications, including schools and food processing facilities, are also starting to wake up to the concern. Wherever there are a number of people, there is the potential for spreading germs and bacteria. And what is usually the first point of contact? The front door — or maybe even the card reader, call button or keypad used to unlock that door. From that point on every doorway, point of entrance or exit is vulnerable to the transfer of germs and bacteria.

Access control and door hardware manufacturers produce a few different options for this emerging concern, from “touch-free” devices to anti-microbial coatings. But it is up to you, the systems integrator or security dealer, to help your customers decide which option, or combination of options is the best solution.

The spread of germs and bacteria is not a new concern, and every flu season brings a new scare about “superbugs” and the need to take precautions. Why is this a security issue? Because doors and how they are opened and operated is the responsibility of the security installer. Certain clients have pressing reasons for wanting those openings as germ-free as possible.

Hospitals, for example, are extremely motivated to keep germs to a minimum, for more than the usual reasons.

“In terms of healthcare, a great percentage of funds that hospitals receive are from the U.S. government via the Medicare program,” says Marilyn Collins, business development manager, ASSA ABLOY, New Haven, Conn. “In recent years the government and Medicare announced they will no longer reimburse hospitals for ‘hospital acquired infections.’ In an attempt to reduce the spread of infection, hospitals have started to take measures including anti-microbial coatings for both hardware and doors.”

Matt Conrad, director of healthcare, Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, Carmel, Ind., agrees. “Really within the past two to three years infection control has become a hot topic within the healthcare community. It is a much bigger deal than you would think. Hospital-acquired infections kill about 100,000 people per year and require additional treatment for about two million patients, which costs the system a lot of money. This is huge from both a patient safety perspective and a business perspective.”

But hospitals, with their inherent population of compromised immune systems, are not the only ones with recent issues that have highlighted the germ problem.

“Here in Canada we had an incident a few years ago where our largest meat packing facility had a huge recall of their product due to listeriosis,” says Dave Malen, general manager, Camden Door Controls, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. “That led to widespread increase and awareness of putting in higher standards for minimizing the possibility of spreading germs and bacteria.”

Schools and daycare centers are another environment that could benefit from better germ control, Collins adds. “Most school systems get state money based on some ratio, including attendance. The implication is that if you make a healthier environment and a student doesn’t take sick days, the school district could potentially get additional funds.”


One of the most foolproof ways to make access control germ-free is to eliminate touch from the equation. While many systems have this capability, in practice it may not be simple or economical.

“It really is dependent on the type of technology that is deployed,” says Steven Dentinger, director of marketing at Keyscan, Whitby, Ontario, Canada. “If you are talking about proximity or smart cards, the credential stays in the individual’s hands. They carry it in their wallet or purse or pocket and they don’t actually have to touch the reader. From a germ deployment scenario there is no interaction.”

But this is often not true for the door itself. Even if the access control technology is touch-free, the door hardware is usually not. Most systems have a way of opening a door automatically, however, for ADA compliance. This feature could be extended to apply to all users and open the door automatically in environments where germ control is a concern, Dentinger adds.

“The accessibility feature can activate a second switch to activate a motorized door opener, which removes entirely the issue of having to touch the handle or door.”

The upside of this method is that you are halfway there already with the access control system and a completely no-touch solution is the best germ control.

The downside, says Dave Adams, senior product marketing manager at HID, Irvine, Calif., is cost.

“If you put together a door with an automatic opener there is definitely an added cost to the door,” he advises. “If it is a hinge/swing type door now it is not just a closer, it is an opener and they do draw quite a bit of power. There is more expense to put in the opener side of it.”

However, in some instances, the automatic opening already exists, so it is just a matter of making it touch-free.

“Automatic openings in the healthcare space are becoming much more common,” Conrad says. “We try to get our customers to look at touchless activators on those openings.”

These devices generally require the wave of a hand in front of the device, in place of the standard push plate with the handicapped wheelchair symbol.

Camden Door Controls is one manufacturer that offers this solution. “The product is designed to replace a switch that you would have to press to open that door. Physically it will fit anywhere an automatic door switch may have been installed before, but electrically it requires four conductors instead of the usual two.”

This and other touch-free activators can also be combined with access control technology in situations where door control is still needed, Malen adds. A user would present their proximity or smart card to a reader to unlock the door, then wave their hand in front of the activator to actually open it.”


While completely touch-free doors and readers may be the best way to prevent germs and bacteria from passing person to person, there are still many situations where this is not feasible. High-security doors, areas where it is not possible or desirable to install an automatic door — all these scenarios require different methods of germ control.

For the past several years, anti-microbial coatings have been available on door hardware and even the doors themselves. But there has been some confusion about what they actually do and what they don’t.

“Anti-microbial coatings are an interesting topic,” Conrad says. “From a door hardware perspective they have made it into practically every surface you can think of in hospitals. But there is still confusion [among] the customer base and distributors about what these coatings can really do.

“I believe they have a benefit, but the misconception is that they kill bacteria that resides on any surface. Really what that silver ion coating is doing is combating bacteria by inhibiting the growth of it. But if you have a commonly used opening and someone with bacteria on their hands grabs the door handle, the person coming along five minutes later and grabbing that same handle will pick up the bacteria,” he explains.

Several companies offer hardware with antimicrobial coating, in several finishes and styles to fit the customer’s needs. But ultimately, nothing will ever replace common hand hygiene, and anti-microbial coatings are no exception. If used properly they can and do help prevent the spread of infection.

“It’s true it does not kill germs, but it does suppress the growth of bacteria,” Collins says. “It is the exponential growth of bacteria that the human body is not able to fight against. A certain level of bacteria is required in the human body and in most cases you don’t want, nor is it possible to have a completely clean environment. The whole anti-microbial movement really is about behavioral change.”

So for those situations such as healthcare where “as clean as humanly possible” is desired, anti-microbial coatings, combined with “foam in, foam out” hand sanitizer practices can go a long way in preventing the spread of germs.

The downside to anti-microbial coatings is that they need to be done at the factory, making retrofit situations more challenging.


In any given project, chances are that all of the above solutions will be employed in some combination. External doors may use the access control with automatic door, internal regular doors may use the anti-microbial coating, and internal automatic doors may use the hands-free activators.

“For the antimicrobial hardware and even touchless actuators, it is an important conversation to have with the customers,” Conrad points out. “Many end users have undertaken task forces to consider something like this so it is a good idea to identify those contacts within the hospital or customer base that you might not already be talking to. Education is key to helping them understand where these solutions could be beneficial for what they are trying to accomplish.”

Visible Solutions for Invisible Culprits

Hands-free and antimicrobial-coated hardware can eliminate the spread of germs and help you help your customers protect the public health.

Antimicrobial-Coated Door Hardware Inhibits Growth of Bacteria

Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies announced that Schlage levers and locks, Von Duprin exit and panic devices, Glynn-Johnson push/pull levers and Ives door accessories are available with an optional antimicrobial coating that inhibits the growth of pathogens on their surfaces.

The clear BHMA-compliant coating provides protection to the door hardware and enhances its appearance using ionic silver (AG+). The natural antimicrobial interacts with bonding sites on the microbe surface, slowing the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew. The silver ions are released at a slow and steady rate — creating a safe, continuous, long-term protection. Schlage biometric HandKey (pictured) and HandPunch readers are also available with antimicrobial protection.

Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies

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Coating Offers Antimicrobial Protection on 4 Hardware Brands

A new tool to improve facility hygiene and cleanliness is at hand with MicroShield™, an antimicrobial coating available on hardware products from ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions brands Corbin Russwin, Rockwood, Sargent and Yale.

MicroShield is a silver-based hardware finish that continuously suppresses the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew, algae and other microbes. ASSA ABLOY stated that this proven technology is non-organic and destroys the organisms in three ways: by attacking the cell wall, interrupting metabolism and preventing reproduction. The finish is EPA and NSF approved and FDA listed for use in medical and food preparation equipment. MicroShield reduces microbial breeding grounds on door hardware, a potential bacterial exchange point.

ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions

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Hands Free

Switches For

Public Health

Protection Are

ADA Compliant

Camden Door Controls Inc.’s new line of Sure-Wave™ infrared door activation switches deliver ADA compliance, performance in all applications (including outdoor/weatherproof installations), and protection of public health by eliminating the spread of germs and viruses through physically touching the switch.

Camden CM-324 Series Sure-Wave™ hands-free switches are ideal for barrier-free applications, restrooms, hospitals and clean rooms as well as commercial and industrial applications, such as drive-up windows, and kitchen doors in restaurants.

Sure-Wave™ switches feature an operating range of 1 to 26 in. and an adjustable time delay of 1 to 5 sec.

Camden Door Controls Inc.

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Push/Pull Locksets Provide Hands-Free Opening for Sanitary Safety

Marks USA PD Series Hospital Push/Pull Mortise and Cylindrical style locksets are designed for use in healthcare facilities. The lockset’s design innovation, with short retraction angle, allows for a simple push or pull on the paddle using your elbow or forearm to open the door. This feature is mandatory for any door where unhygienic conditions may be prevalent, such as restrooms or cafeterias, thus aiding in the prevention of contamination from unsanitary hands.

The unique hospital passage function cylindrical chassis and 13 functions of mortise lock push/pull locksets feature universal assemblies that allow paddles to point two-up or two-down or one up and one down.

The PD Series locksets feature solid stainless-steel paddles and are UL listed for 3-hour fire rating, satisfy all ADA requirements, and features the Marks Lifetime Mechanical Warranty.

Marks USA, A NAPCO Security Group Company

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Good, Old-Fashioned Cleaning

What about plain old cleaning as a way of preventing germs and bacteria? This has been the standard for years and that won’t change just because there is a special coating on the door handle or because it opens automatically.

Some items must be cleaned, and when it comes to electronics this is a challenge.

Take biometrics, for example. This security technology, particularly fingerprint and hand geometry, can’t be touch free by definition. “When you have multiple people touching this reader that can be looked on as a germ scenario,” says Steve Dentinger, director of marketing, Keyscan. “There are things you can do, but ultimately the solutions for that technology are manual and maintenance based.”

Other technologies can be tough to disinfect. That is why some manufacturers, such as HID, are manufacturing devices that are designed to withstand being washed down or even immersed. “Not only can dust particles not get in, but they can withstand being completely submersed and disinfected,” says Dave Adams, senior product marketing manager, HID.

However, one area where germs are likely to gather is still an issue: the ID or access control card itself. Even if it never touches the reader, the cardholder touches it, and it can harbor germs, Adams adds.

“One device we still haven’t solved but will soon is the card. Is that ever cleaned? The dirtiest thing in a hospital might be someone’s badge that they are wearing around their neck.”

HID and others are working on using antimicrobial materials for the badge itself in the future.